Sumatra, a birders' paradise in Indonesia has lush rainforests, exotic
fauna & flora, and sparkling rivers. With some 600 species, Sumatra is
second only to Irian Jaya in the sheer variety of its birdlife. About three
quarters of these birds are resident, though only 17 are endemic. Sadly,
many species are endangered by clearing of land for settlement, logging
and hunting, and some are now sighted only rarely.
Calls of the hornbills attract your attention with their noisy wingbeats
and loud calls. Particularly spectacular is the Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros
rhinoceros. The male is 1.2 m long, with a huge reddish, upturned casque
and loud honking call.
Another common call of the forest is the loud "ku-ow" of the great Argus
Pheasant Argusianus argus. When its decorative wing and tail plumes are
fully developed, the male pheasant reaches a length of nearly 2 m. Like so
many secretive forest birds, you must be very fortunate to see it in the
wild. I am still waiting!
If you are lucky enough to chance upon a fruiting fig tree, you may see a
host of bulbuls and barbets--all so intent on gorging themselves that they
ignore the observer standing below in a shower of
discarded fruit debris. Occasionally shattering the cathedral stillness of
the noon-time forest, a flock of birds will sweep down upon you, excitedly
searching for food. This "feeding party" ranges from woodpeckers, jays and
trogons to drongos, bulbuls and babblers. After just a few minutes, the
flock moves on, leaving the equally frenzied birdwatcher frantically trying
to remember each species as the last bird departs.
We went to two main sites in Sumatra. We spent 4 days in Gunung Leuser
National Park and 5 days in Kerinci-Seblat National Park. We were with
Kath Shurcliff & David Houghton who presently reside in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Kath & Dave spoke enough Indonesian to make the trip most enjoyable.
The book we used to tell us where best to go was "Birding Indonesia. A
birdwatchers guide to the world's largest archipelago." by Paul Jepson
published by Periplus. The book gave excellent outlines of areas to visit.
The minute details came easily thanks to Kath mostly.
We flew in from Sydney to Jakarta and to Medan, the capital of Sumatra.
Our airfare Syd to Jak was Aus$910 return. Kath arranged our tickets to
Medan which cost Aus$200 Jak, Medan, Padang, Jak. This was half the price
quoted in Sydney. The gardens around Jakarta airport produced 4 lifers for
me. Best airport in years!
We stayed at the Garuda Plaza Hotel who picked us up and the next morning
we were able to arrange a 4WD and driver to take us to the Cinta Alam at
Gurah which lies at the southern main entrance of Gunung Leuser National
Park immediately opposite the Ketambe Research Station, a distance of 35 km
to the west of Kutacane, or about 250 km from Medan. All the details are in
the Birding Indonesia although all prices quoted were incorrect
The drive took some 8 hours for 250,000 Rupiah. On the way the driver
stopped for us at a few spots for us to bird. The best stop was at
Berastagi. Good birds at a higher elevation. We gave the driver a generous
tip and asked him to pick us up in 4 days time at 11am. He turned up an
hour early. We found everybody to be very reliable.
Our accommodation, at Wisma Cinta Alam was just outside the National Park
and is not mentioned in the Birding Indonesia book. It does have a home
page on the
It was separate lodges close to the river which had disused rice fields on
one side. Mr Ali's family looked after us and we could even get cold beer.
A tip..the food becomes even nicer if you pay a large amount up front say
Where to bird. We walked into the National Park stopping at every sound,
taping, playing back and many good birds were seen from the road. There is
a coffee shop called Silayar in the park so we would bird for 2 hours and
have breakfast there. We also arranged a guide to show us Orang-utan and
we were shown a lot of trails which we returned to the next day. The white
building called Mushalla has a trail behind it leading to the best birding.
We saw Orang-utan, White-handed Gibbon, Pig-tailed Macaque, lots of
Long-tailed Macaque, Thomas' Leaf Monkey and many species of bird. (see
Trevor & Annie Quested
Phone +61 2 9955 6266
Fax + 61 2 9959 4005